Extreme couponing has become the new buzz word on the Internet and TV. Shoppers with reams of coupons are seen loading up pallet loads of groceries and dry goods, and checking out with thousands of dollars worth of goods for next-to-nothing, or maybe even for cash back. Could this be the answer to your self reliance storage plan?

Many years ago there was a television show called Dragnet. Sergeant Joe Friday was heard in every episode reminding his witness, “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts”. Let’s examine the facts.

Those involved in this new couponing trend admit to spending an average of 30 to 40 hours per week clipping coupons, printing coupons from the Internet, comparing prices at local grocery and drug store chains, preparing a strategy for their purchases. Once they have coupons in hand, they spend another three to four hours at the store filling carts and checking out. Once the shopping is complete items are brought home and another several hours are spent putting things away. In other words couponing is their full-time job.

When asked how much value there is in their home storage inventory, couponers will often tell you it is between twelve and fifteen thousand dollars. For a full time job which requires an obsessive commitment, distracts you from family, church responsibilities and service opportunities, this is a very low paying job.

A typical stash for those who coupon with such extreme objectives, includes enough toothpaste, laundry detergent, and shampoo to last through the millennium, but no dairy products and very few proteins, fruits and vegetables. This is not intentional, it just reflects what is available to buy with coupons. Storage shelves will be stocked to overflowing with packaged foods which are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

But what is self reliance? Self reliance by definition is using one’s own efforts and abilities, with dependence on one’s own powers and judgment. We trust in our own capabilities to gather resources. “Reliance” is a state of being dependent upon or confident in something or someone, in this case, trusting in ourselves. In other words, “self reliance” is the faith and confidence in your own judgment and capability to be independent, no matter the circumstance.

Will becoming a coupon king or queen achieve this goal? No. Self reliance requires not only the stocking of a “General Store” in our own homes, but also learning and practicing skills which help us to remain independent of the world. Self reliance requires the accumulation of tools to practice those skills including the equipment needed for canning, sewing, car repair, and gardening. It requires a reference library should we be required to fend for our own food, clothing, shelter and health care for some period of time.

The Lord has asked us to become self reliant for a reason. Do we know the reason? No, not explicitly, but we do know the Lord has asked us to be his hands and to succor the poor and needy and we cannot accomplish that unless we ourselves become self reliant.

President Henry B. Eyring related the following when speaking about the church welfare program and self reliance:

“Those principles are spiritual and eternal. For that reason, understanding them and putting them down into our hearts will make it possible for us to see and take opportunities to help whenever and wherever the Lord invites us.

“Here are some principles that guided me when I wanted to help in the Lord’s way and when I have been helped by others.

“First, all people are happier and feel more self-respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others. I have been grateful for those who helped me meet my needs. I have been even more grateful over the years for those who helped me become self-reliant. (emphasis added) And then I have been most grateful for those who showed me how to use some of my surplus to help others.

“I have learned that the way to have a surplus is to spend less than I earn. With that surplus I have been able to learn that it really is better to give than to receive. That is partly because when we give help in the Lord’s way, He blesses us.

“President Marion G. Romney said of welfare work, ‘You cannot give yourself poor in this work.’ And then he quoted his mission president, Melvin J. Ballard, this way: ‘A person cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return.’”  Henry B. Eyring, Opportunities to do Good, Ensign, May 2011.

President Spencer W. Kimball:

“ As I listened to their addresses, I kept thinking over and over of something the Savior said, Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? It rolled over and over and over in my mind: Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46.)

“There are many people in the Church today who have failed to do, and continue to argue against doing, the things that are requested and suggested by this great organization.

“The Lord said also, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21.) And I was thinking that there are as many wards and branches in the Church as there are people in this room, one for one. And what great accomplishment there would be if every bishop and every branch president in all the world, wherever it’s possible (of course there are a few places where this is not permitted), had a storage such as has been suggested here this morning and took to their three or four or five hundred members the same message, quoting scripture and insisting that the people of their wards and branches do the things the Lord has requested, for we know that there are many who are failing.

“And then I hear them argue, Well, suppose we do put away a lot and then someone comes and takes it from us, our neighbors who do not believe. That’s been answered this morning.

“And so my feeling is today that we emphasize these two scriptures: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. And the other: Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” 

Spencer W. Kimball, Family Preparedness, Ensign, May 1976, 124

I love the story told after Hurricane Katrina. A group of Latter-day Saints spent the day volunteering and helping those affected by the storm clean and salvage their remaining possessions. Toward the end of the day the volunteers asked a local church member what had happened to his home and he replied that it had been destroyed. They asked if they could help him and he reluctantly took them  to his home. As they looked around they noticed glass was everywhere and it took little time for them to recognize that among the wreckage was his food storage. They expressed their sadness at the lost and this faithful brother replied, “The Lord told me to have it.

He didn’t say I would eat it”.


Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

“Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.” It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.”  “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten”, Ensign, May 2011

Elder Dallin H Oaks shared: “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.”  “Desire”, Ensign, May 2011

So to the question, “Does extreme couponing have a place in self-reliance?” I think that for me, the answer is: a place maybe, the answer, definitely “No”.  Extreme couponing is not becoming self reliant. Self reliance requires a change of heart and a true desire to do as the Lord commands. It requires constant, continuous work and prayer. It cannot be accomplished in a day, a week or a month. However, if we commit to do a little every day, we can reach our self-reliance goals. We can be prepared to care for our family’s needs and to provide aid and comfort to others. We have the Lords promise. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) “The Lord gives no commandment save he prepares a way to accomplish it” (1 Nephi 3:7).

Join Carolyn every Tuesday night on Ready Or Not , 6:00pm Pacific~9:00pm Eastern, as she discusses current preparedness concerns and solutions. To get in on the discussion “like”  her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady  and join her yahoo group: https://groups.yahoo.com/group/TotallyReady/